Ulil Abshar Abdalla

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Ulil Abshar Abdalla, 2004
Ulil Abshar Abdalla, 2011

Ulil Abshar-Abdalla (born 11 January 1967 in Pati, Central Java) is an Orientalist scholar from Indonesia affiliated to Jaringan Islam Liberal (Liberal Islam Network). He comes from a family of Nahdlatul Ulama background: His father Abdullah Rifa'i is from pesantren Mansajul Ulum (Mansajul Ulum Islamic school) in Pati, Central Java, and he is married to the daughter of Mustofa Bisri, an Islamic cleric from Pesantren Raudlatut Talibin, Rembang, Central Java.


Ulil completed his secondary education in Madrasah Mathali'ul Falah, Kajen, Pati, Central Java. This school is led by Ahmad Sahal Mahfudz which sits in the Nahdlatul Ulama leadership board during the period of 1994‑1999). Ulil also studied in Pesantren Mansajul 'Ulum, Cebolek, Kajen, Pati, and Pondok Pesantren Al-Anwar, Sarang, Rembang, all in Central Java.

He graduated with Bachelor degree in Sharia faculty in LIPIA (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Islam dan Arab - Islamic and Arabic Knowledge Institute) in Jakarta. He was also educated in Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Driyarkara (Driyarkara School of Philosophy). He once held a position as chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama's Lakpesdam (Lembaga Kajian dan Pengembangan Sumber Daya Manusia - Human Resources Research and Development Centre), as a researcher in ISAI (Institut Studi Arus Informasi), Jakarta, and as Program Director in Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP).

He is also well known for his activism as a coordinator in Jaringan Islam Liberal, a group who claim to deliver a liberal interpretation of Islam. Due to his activism in this group, he gained praises, sometimes deemed as another reformer after Nurcholish Madjid, as well as controversies.

After completing his master's degree in religion at Boston University he went on and continued his PhD studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University.


In 2003, a group of Indonesian Islamic clerics from Forum Ulama Umat Islam issued a death fatwa against Ulil[1] for an article that Ulil wrote in Kompas in 2002, "Menyegarkan Kembali Pemahaman Islam" (Rejuvenating the Islamic Understanding) [2][3] that is considered heretical by the clerics. In March 2011, a letter bomb addressed to Ulil at Komunitas Utan Kayu exploded, injuring a police officer.

Ulil also defended the right of the Ahmadi people, which is an uncommon stance within conservative Islam. He also opposes many of fatwas by Majelis Ulama Indonesia, such as the one forbidding to give Christmas greetings to Christians.

In 2012, FPI revealed a scandal involving Ulil with a girl. The chief of FPI, Munarman, during an interview with journalists, provided an alleged evidence in the form of Blackberry Messenger (BBM) text between Ulil Abshar Abdalla with a girl named Marchelinta Dhika. Munarman then told about the scandal. According to him, the girl became pregnant out of wedlock with Ulil. She was then asked to abort her fetus in exchange for a car. It turned out Ulil did not fulfill his promise, instead he only gave hundreds of millions rupiah to the girl's parent. Intrigued by the story, the journalists searched for the truth. It turned out, there were more Ulil's text messages with the underage girl living in Pasar Minggu, besides the previous one. For example, Ulil once was jealous of the girl's boyfriend as expressed in one of his BBM messages.[4]

On Wednesday night, February 21, 2012 a reporter of Suara Islam tried to clarify the issue with Marchelinta. Through a short messages (SMS), Marchelinta admitted that she had had a special relationship with Ulil Abshar Abdalla. "Yes ... with Ulil Abshar Abdalla...in last year's Ramadan, but I have known him since two years ago," said Marchelinta.[4]


  1. ^ Atika Shubert, CNN Correspondent. "CNN". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  2. ^ Kompas[dead link]
  3. ^ "Article in JIL website". Islamlib.com. Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  4. ^ a b Al Battar, Saif (February 22, 2012). "Dedengkot JIL Ulil Abshar Abdalla melakukan zina di luar nikah?". Arrahmah (in Indonesian). Retrieved September 20, 2014. 

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